Innovation Fund opens to get more people on the electoral register

Published on Tuesday, 06 August 2013 16:57
Written by Vicki Mitchem

With so many young people not on the electoral register, an Innovation Fund has been launched to encourage people onto the electoral roll.

The Cabinet Office today invited community organisations across the country to bid for funding to deliver innovative projects aimed at getting more people on the electoral register. The announcement comes as new government research confirms that nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds are not on the register, and in some regions only a third of 16- to 17-year-olds who should register ahead of their first elections are registered to vote.

Organisations are today formally invited to apply for some of the £4.2 million fund aimed at specific groups that have been identified as under-represented on the electoral register. These include 16- to 17-year-olds, 18- to 24-year-olds, and people in social housing. The government has conducted research using data from the 2011 census to identify these groups, and also to target support at areas with lower rates of registration.

There are 2 projects for which the government is inviting bids:

The Innovation Fund announced by the government on 4 July opens today. Voluntary and community groups and smaller businesses are invited to come forward with innovative ideas to improve engagement with the democratic process among under-represented groups, and get more people on the electoral register.

In order to address the problem among the 16- and 17-year-olds who could register to vote now, local organisations across the country are being sought to deliver the Rock Enrol! lesson framework in schools in areas with lower levels of registration in this group. Rock Enrol was co-created and piloted with the youth-led organisation Bite the Ballot.

The government is also publishing research that has seen these groups and regions identified as the initial focus of this work. This research confirmed that young people and social housing tenants were significantly under-represented but further found that the most of these people are expected to match against public databases in the transition to Individual Electoral Registration. Thus most of those registered in these projects are expected to remain on the electoral register when the changeover takes place in 2014 without further action, providing a key opportunity to begin to address the issue of under registration.

Chloe Smith, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, said:

I would like to urge any organisation that has an idea for improving voter registration among young people or people in social housing to come to us and bid for some of this money. Even if your charity or social enterprise is not in the business of getting people on the electoral register, your networks and expertise in your community could be invaluable in our quest to give everybody the opportunity to use their right to vote.

The new projects are being launched with less than a year to go before the transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER), which will go live in England and Wales in June 2014, and in Scotland following the referendum on independence in September 2014. The canvass that will begin at the end of 2013 is the last before the transition to the new system of registering to vote. Under the new system, instead of receiving a household registration form, everyone will have to take responsibility to register themselves individually, including providing identification information such as their National Insurance number.

For the first time people will also be able to register online. IER will improve the voting system to make it safer and simpler to register to vote. Preparations for the transition are already well under way, and have remained on budget and on track for the changeover next year. Most people – around two-thirds - will not have to do anything in order to remain on the electoral register when the changeover takes place, as the current register will be matched against other public databases such as that held by the Department of Work and Pensions. If your records do not match, you will receive a letter asking you to register using the new individual forms.

There are 2 major benefits to the system we are introducing: because we will ask for identifying information such as date of birth and National Insurance number, we can verify that everyone on the register is who they say they are. This is vital as we create a register in which everyone can be fully confident, one which reduces the risk of fraud and duplication, eradicating redundant entries.

The second benefit of IER is that, because we are targeting people individually, we can bring electoral registration into the modern age. Some people, such as those in shared housing and students who move regularly, might not even realise a form has been delivered to their home.

IER will give us the opportunity to make sure the register has as many eligible people as possible on it – it will be more accurate than ever, and we can be sure every individual who is entitled to vote can do so.

Source: Cabinet Office

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